Tuesday, January 30, 2007

It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This

Right now I'm enjoying a beautiful breeze through our apartment because all our windows are open. It honestly feels like a cool Minnesota summer evening. This is a bit surprising given that it is still 81 degrees outside and 70% humidity. But for the past two days the weather has been glorious. The sun has peeked out a bit, no rain, but wonderful breezes. If it was like this all the time, you'd have to drag me out of here.

We don't ever open our windows, because typically it's too hot or it's raining. Singaporeans tend to open their windows and doors instead of running air con every night in contrast. We started yesterday because of The Great Chicken Burning Incident (in which Gina forgets that there is chicken cooking on the stove and has to call a friend in her complex while she's driving home from the library and the friend makes her way through the smoke and turns off the stove and everything in Gina's house smells like burnt chicken but fortunately nothing burned down because our apartment is at its core a cement box). I think I might do this every night, if the weather stays like this. But it probably won't. We're wrapping up the rainy season here, and we will soon enter the hot season where you walk outside and instantly bead up with sweat. On the plus side, we may lose some water weight.

China in the Nude

In Minneapolis there is a funky little area called Uptown. And in Uptown there is a fun little shop (or was, don't know if it's still there) called China in the Nude. Before you make lewd assumptions, it is a paint your own pottery store. Erik and I went there a few times at my request (he's inclined to call anything artsy "arts and crap"). It was fun.

Today, we had our own version of China in the Nude. We've been studying China in homeschool. My kids are getting to be experts on Qin Shi Huang Di, The Great Wall, Terra Cotta Warriors, the Yellow River and the Yangtze. So we've done a few activities to learn about all this, and today it was "painting fireworks." Why? Well, the Chinese invented fireworks. They invented pretty much everything except the internet which was, of course, created by Al Gore. They invented gun powder (supposedly) and happily used it to power their fireworks. Then the made the fatal mistake of offering their gunpowder to the British, thinking that they could all shoot off fireworks together. And the British took the gunpowder and put it in guns and shot the Chinese. Or so the legend goes. I could be making all of that up. I have been known to do things like that. I guess you'll just have to google it to find the truth for yourself; you can believe everything you read on the internet. But not necessarily everything on this blog.

But all that has very little to do with our craft. The kids had straws with which to blow paint which in theory should shoot out in every direction looking like fireworks. That's what the craft book said. But instead, it just spread in a big puddle. When I saw that the force of their blowing wasn't constricted to the paper, I made them take off their clothes. Hence, china in the nude. Yeah, it's a stretch, but it made me think of the original store. I confess I took pictures from the back and planned to post them, but decided against it for various reasons which are probably obvious. And thus ends one of my weirder posts. (is weirder a word?)

Thank You for Not Smoking In So Many Ways

At the hawker center across the street there are signs forbidding smoking in no less than four languages. They are: English, Mandarin, Malay, and some kind of Indian script. I just thought that was interesting.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

A Whole Nother

Have you ever noticed how often people use this phrase, "A whole nother" ? Do we realize that there is no such thing as a "nother?" I don't know how or why it became acceptable to separate the "a" from the "nother" but we do. I confess, I do it without thinking. And yet, it is wrong. Strange.

I thought of it this morning after hearing my children converse using "for 'cept" instead of "except." Which also reminds me that Ethan cannot seem to grasp that the way he says, "were" is wrong. He says it like "war" except (or maybe for 'cept) it rhymes more with "bar." (though theoretically war and bar should rhyme, but that's another issue). It's to the point where Megan will say, "Ethan! War is not a word!"

The English language is strange. To begin with, it is full of exceptions to rules of grammar and pronunciation. Then, we take liberties to create new words, sometimes without even being aware. I wonder if there are other languages where this is also the case.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bragging on my sis

I know I've mentioned my incredible brother several times, but I don't know that I've talked much about my wonderful sister. Lisa is older than me by three years, and looks absolutely nothing like me. To begin with, she looks not even close to her 36 years. She has almost black hair and darker skin, green eyes, and a face that looks like she's wearing make up even though she never does. You might think I'd be a little green eyed monster about all this, but I consider it God's blessing on her because of the one condition that defines her most - she is mentally impaired.

I could go on forever about that and how it has changed me as a person, but that's not the point of this point. I just want to brag about her a bit because in the last year she has accomplished something that it seems most Americans find too difficult to pursue: She has lost 60 pounds on her own. It's been completely due to self-discipline through diet and exercise. She's used the principles from Weight Watchers to keep track of points every day, making sure she eats healthy and doesn't eat too much. At this point she's lost more than my almost 7 year old weighs. Considering her mental condition, I say this is no small accomplishment.

I hold her up as an inspiration and example to all who are carrying some extra weight - if she can do it, anyone can.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Head wounds bleed a lot

My mother has always told me, "Head wounds bleed a lot." (This has been in the context of head injuries, not just randomly as we're shopping or making dinner or something like that). I'm grateful for that, especially today, when I saw a stranger bringing my son out of his gymnastics class with the left side of his face covered with blood. It's more than a bit disarming when your child is bleeding so much that you don't even know where the source is. I just swallowed and told myself, "Head wounds bleed a lot, head wounds bleed a lot!"

Of course he was already wearing his cub scout shirt for our afternoon activity, and it was proving itself effectiveness at absorbing blood. Once we got him to the bathroom and washed him off, we found that his head was only scratched less than a centimeter, with one small hole in the middle like he'd run into a nail. The woman who brought him to me went back and checked, but couldn't find anything sharp on the box he ran into while playing, so the hole remains a mystery.

We still went to the cub scout activity (after washing and drying the shirt) and on the way home, Ethan asked if he could watch a movie as a special treat because of his injury. So Megan asked, "Mommy, if I get a bloody head can I watch a favorite movie?" How do you answer that?

Mystic Dragon

While breezing through the cold section of Mustafa yestserday, my eye caught sight of the Capri Sun section. I don't like to buy them, but I noticed a dragon on them so I stopped. They have a flavor called Mystic Dragon here, named for the dragon fruit. I thought it was cool that there was a dragon on it, and knew my kids would too, but the dragon fruit is a disappointing one. It looks exotic on the outside (dark pinkish purple) but like a white kiwi on the inside, and somewhat tasteless.

So I had to say no to the creatively named yet unappealing drink. And that was about the most interesting part of my day. Sigh.

A New Tactic

As expected, Thursday morning I found myself staring down a tension headache. I've discovered a pattern - usually my body reacts a few days after the stress, so even if I realize that I'm getting uptight and relax, I suffer the consequences later.

I decided this time to pursue a new tactic. There is a place nearby called "Visually Impaired Reflexology Clinic." I would call it Blind Massage, but maybe that isn't PC. I dropped my kids off at a friend's house and managed to work up a good sweat on the 10 minute walk there because it was 180 degrees outside. (ok, maybe not that hot. It was just the fact that the sun was shining in its full glory which in Singapore means dripping sweat). So the back of my shirt was all wet. Not the most appealing thing for someone to massage, I'll admit, but I am not yet to the point where I feel comfortable stripping down for a massage, especially for a man.

But he was a nice man. I guess visually impaired means "not completely blind" for him because he seemed able to see ok. I chose a 30 minute head and neck massage for S$25. It ended up being more like 45 minutes and he only charged me S$22 because I was low on cash and his credit card machine was broken. And he really knew his stuff - he could tell right where I was tense and knew how to work it out.

Did it do the trick? Well, I feel about 90% better, which is more effective than anything else I've tried. I may go back tomorrow afternoon when Erik is back (finally!). I am incredibly thankful for this option. From now on it will be my first line of defensive.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Durian testing

I'm smiling, but I'm also thinking, "How can I get this nasty taste out of my mouth?!"

Despite this look, Erik continued to eat the durian!

How I feel about durian.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Family Visit

I can't take credit for any of these photos except the one of Ethan with the millipedes. The rest belong to Erik's brother Ryan. Now tell me, you'd pay him to take pictures for you, wouldn't you? This guy has a future in photography. I would have uploaded more, but I'm exhausted and it takes a long time through blogger. I'll post more another time.

Ethan spent hours (literally!) playing with millipedes at the condo where our family was staying.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Thank You for Smoking

I just finished watching part of the above titled movie (viewing an entire movie in one sitting is a rare occurrence for me in this stage of life). I am enjoying it immensely so far, but I had to comment about one scene toward the beginning. The anti-smoking guys decide on a campaign whereby they will put a big skull and crossbones on each cigarette pack. My response was, "That's weak! You should come to Singapore people!"

In Singapore, they aren't content with a skull and crossbones. Not graphic enough to make a point! No, here, you get a variety of choices for your viewing pleasure on your pack of cigarettes - real pictures of anything from a premature baby, to a person's face being eaten alive by cancer to a mouth full of rotting teeth. I'd love to post a picture, but it appears my husband has stolen my camera and fled the country. Ok, maybe he just took our camera with him on a business trip, and he'll be attending a friend's wedding while there. But I think the former version is much more interesting.

Is the smoking population smaller in Singapore? It seems so, but it may be due to the fact that cigarettes run about USD$6 a pack or more, rather than people being deterred by disgusting images.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

My Thorn

One of the great unanswered questions of the Bible, "What was Paul's thorn in the flesh?" Whatever it was, it was something it seems he finally accepted and found purpose in, namely, to see God's power in his weakness.

I've never been a big fan of weakness myself, so God has been working on that in me in the last few years. Coming to Singapore, although it's a great deal more developed than China, was a lesson in humility and dependence for me because I lost my house help and started homeschooling (double whammy!). In addition to this, He has chosen to give me chronic tension headaches.

I think I've talked about these before. I was diagnosed last spring, though that wasn't the first time I had them. My neurologist put me on an anti-depressant, which at low doses works as a muscle relaxant. I won't give details about side effects, but let's say there were some, and I didn't like them. I also didn't like the fact that the medication masked the true source of the problem - tension.

In the fall when my prescription ran out I felt like God was leading me to stop taking the medication so I could rely on more natural remedies (I know, me and Tom Cruise, the anti-medics). Since then I've had several headaches, sometimes for more than a week. It's frustrating, but I'm learning from them.

They have become my thorn, the thing I initially called out to God to take away, and have become resigned to having. In fact, I have begun to think of them as a blessing. They are a reminder to me to cast my cares on the Lord, to slow down, to be willing to accept doing less than I'd like to do so I can care for my body. One of the best remedies is long walks where I just emote to God about whatever is weighing on me ("pay no attention to the crazy foreign girl talking to herself at 6 in the morning!). Massages help though too, so if anyone wants to come over and give me one, you're more than welcome. :)

Erik left this morning for 12 days. The environment is ripe for tension! But what an opportunity to rely on God. Pray that I will, and that I will be able to honor Him in my body.

Christmas pictures

Megan flashing that smile for the camera.

Lots and lots of gifts! Probably too many :)

We couldn't find an advent wreath, so we used these IKEA candles.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Best Family Photo

Erik's brother Ryan took this shot for us. He's a fabulous photographer! We think this is the best photo we've ever had taken of our family. Megan has become quite a ham for the camera lately, so I'll try to post some of the shots Ryan captured of her.

Drinking at noon

If these guys looked a little sloshed, it's because they just partook of a Singapore Sling. And Andrew underaged at that! Just a sip though. This was in the Long Bar of the famous Raffles Hotel at the end of the Colonial walking tour.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Smells like hell, tastes like heaven? Yeah, right.

To experience Singapore in full, you must do several things - see the Merlion, go to Mustafa, drink a Singapore Sling, eat roti prata and chicken murtabak and lots of other local foods, and of course, eat durian.

They say durian "smells like hell but tastes like heaven." I so beg to differ. Today I had my first taste of durian. I have smelled it more times than I care. It smells like rotten melon. Turns out it the taste is equivalent or worse. It's hard to say, as it didn't stay in my mouth too long. It was easily one of the most disgusting foods I have ever eaten. And this is once I got past the look and the texture. Imagine something that looks like fermented chicken meat, to the point where it has become mushy. Stringy even. It doesn't just squish through your fingers, it clings to them. Now put that in your mouth. That's durian. Erik's mom and I searched with haste for anything else to put in our mouths that could remove the taste (mandarin oranges - real ones, not canned! - to the rescue!).

Why did I try it? Erik's family leaves tomorrow and we just had to squeeze in this last "must do." Now I know I must never, ever do that again.